Confession time: I have a really hard time getting started. There’s just something about those awkward first steps that makes me delay projects as long as I possibly can. For example, last month I finally fixed the check engine light in my car so that I could get it inspected. It was actually pretty excited since the light had been on since October.

Of 2008. I wish I was kidding.

It’s not that I’m irresponsible, that I don’t value my safety or even that I didn’t know I was potentially creating a bigger problem – it’s that taking the first step and committing to something is scary. And it’s especially scary if you don’t know where to start. Because the not knowing makes you feel dumb. And no one likes to feel dumb.

If you’re a business owner feeling like everyone around you is already fully immersed in social media and ‘getting it’, it’s intimidating to take those first steps or even ask for help. How do you hire a social media company when you’re not versed in it? What are you supposed to look for? What do you ask? How do you not embarrass yourself so they reject you before even knowing you? OMG, can’t we just go back to direct mail?

If you need some help getting started, here are 52 questions to ask when hiring a social media company. This isn’t meant to be a full list, just something to get the conversation started. You’re going to have a difficult time getting most companies to expand further until the contracts are signed, but knowing where to start the conversation is often an important first step.

Brand Monitoring Questions

  1. What tool(s) do you use to monitor brand mentions?
  2. Do you monitor sentiment and if so, how?
  3. How will you report on brand mentions? Can you provide a sample report?
  4. How often will we receive a report or will we have access to the reports?
  5. How do you assess which brand mentions require an immediate response and which do not?
  6. How soon will we be notified of brand mentions that need a response and how will we be notified?
  7. What is your approach to responding to mentions, positive or negative?
  8. If you respond, who do you leave a comment as and how do you determine what to say?
  9. If you don’t respond, will you provide us with a template for how to effectively respond to brand mentions?
  10. Do you just monitor existing mentions or will you help us to build new ones?

Reputation Management Questions

  1. What services do you provide as part of an online reputation management campaign?
  2. What is your typical process for handling online reputation management issues?
  3. Can you completely get rid of the negative result(s)?
  4. What responsibilities will your team handle and what will you need us to manage in-house?
  5. Do you write content/press releases/guest posts for us or will we have to hire someone else to do that?
  6. What information/access will you need from us before you get started?
  7. How much information do you need regarding the cause of the ORM issue?
  8. How will you determine if reputation management is successful?
  9. How much time could it take to displace negative search results?
  10. Can you make a 3-month projection of how the search results will look for target phrases?

Social Media Measurement Questions

  1. What social media marketing channels do you have the most expertise in?
  2. Will you work with us to create a social plan/strategy or do you just create the initial presence?
  3. What tools do you use to measure social media metrics? Do you have your own tools or do you use existing ones?
  4. Can you pull archived data with those tools to establish a baseline or are we starting from present day?
  5. How should we define success/conversions?
  6. Can we use our analytics with your tools when reporting on conversions or will we have to switch to something else?
  7. How do you the measure the effectiveness of each social media channel?
  8. How should we define ROI? Do you measure the cost per lead/ cost per acquisition?
  9. What methods will you use to grow the accounts and measure success?
  10. Do you have 3-month projection of what we can expect from this investment?
  11. How long will it take to see results?

Community Questions

  1. Will you help us build satellite communities within social media or focus strictly on our Web site?
  2. How will you help us determine our community influencers? If not, can we keep the list that you’ve created?
  3. Will you reach out to the influencers on our behalf or will we? If it’s on you, how transparent will you be about our relationship with us? How do you keep it authentic?
  4. Will you give us a strategy for how to connect with influencers in a way that doesn’t appear spammy? Small talk makes us nervous, but we want people to know we’re real.
  5. What methods will you use to grow our audience? Will they get us in trouble or turn people off?
  6. How do you measure community ROI? We hear follower numbers are so 2008, but what else is there?
  7. What about the new FTC guidelines for sponsored advertising? How do we know when or what to disclose?
  8. How can integrate our online community with our offline community and into our traditional marketing efforts?
  9. Will you give us any guidelines for how to talk to people and how to be a good social media citizen so we don’t look foolish?
  10. Will you teach us how to sustain what you’ve started? We will be taught how to use the tools, identify people, and essentially do what you did?

The Right Fit Questions ( to ask yourself)

  1. Do their core values match my own?
  2. Are my customers on social media? Do I even need these services?
  3. If I’m the one who will be tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, am I social enough for this?
  4. Am I being offer a social media presence or an outlined strategy?
  5. Do they seem excited to work with me? Am I excited to work with them?
  6. Do they understand our point of difference?
  7. How customized does their strategy feel?
  8. Do they take time to answer our questions and explain rationale or do they seem fearful of going into specifics of what they’re doing?
  9. What does this company’s reputation appear to be in the community? Are they practicing what they preach and tracking/responding to their own mentions?
  10. Do I trust the people behind this company? Do they seem to care about my brand?
  11. How will the strategy they outline complement your larger objectives?

See, conversations aren’t so scary when you have a place to start, right?


About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.


39 thoughts on “52 Questions To Ask When Hiring A Social Media Company


  • David Zemens on said:

    Great article as usual. Just entering the social media marketplace with a Facebook or Twitter account doesn’t get the job done. Your business need the expertise of folks who do this for a living … and do it successfully.

    Your neighbor’s kid can make a website with Dreamweaver, call himself an SEO expert, and further label himself a Social Media expert as well. But in reality he’s probably none of the above.

    The short answer is that every business needs to take their social media experience seriously, and doing so almost always involves a plan, hard work and an investment.

    Like Nike says, “Just do it”. But it’s always better to “do it right”.


  • Curtis Ophoven on said:

    That is a lot of questions that I don’t have a good answer for, yet as a web developer I’m expected to have answers for these questions.

    My clients like to ask these questions, but they are yet to put much value on good answers – because good answers cost a lot of money.

    So for now they accept my simple answers with my full intention to minimize my effort with regards to social media. They are happy with someone talking the talk, without doing much – as long as they don’t have to pay for it.

    Before they are ready to pay for ‘web reputation management’, they want proof that I have succeeded with other clients and the effort was a good ROI.


  • Greg Finn on said:

    54. Have you have been banned from a social network? Or have you ever had a client banned from a network?


  • Tim Staines on said:

    Even though I totally disagree with:

    it’s that taking the first step and committing to something is scary

    …your questions are on point.

    I don’t know what it is with that check engine light that’s so scary or hard to understand, but you and my wife have got to realize that the scary part is what happens when the “check” part is ignored during a more significant issue.

    I like to remind myself that every “expert” out there started with zero experience. In social media this is particularly true. Don’t be afraid. Just dive in and start participating. Authentically. It’s not hard. Just do it.


  • Davina K. Brewer on said:

    @Tim, ITA that everyone was a rookie once, even the experts. Good point.

    @Lisa, this a great list of questions for someone considering a social media program, thanks. I wish more companies would take such thoughtful planning in putting together a social media strategy.

    Only questions I’d add would be how managing reputation and building connections in the community will connect back to marketing and sales? Will you help me integrate social media with other marketing and communications initiatives? FWIW.


  • Bob Cohen on said:

    Good questions for someone who knows what to ask. I think my challenge in my classes is that the students I teach aren’t sure what all the terms mean. I hope that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be doing Social Media Marketing but it is an education challenge that most marketing firms only make when it’s part of their services pitch.


  • Mark Alves on said:

    55. In whose names and with which email addresses will you register new social media accounts? If staff have their own accounts in certain communities, do you recommend using these or creating new, branded ones?

    56. Which departments or teams should have responsibility for ongoing social media strategy? Is this the same group that handles day-to-day tactics? Does it differ by organization and the skills of the available staff?


  • Andrew@BloggingGuide on said:

    Great questions. One may need to weed out other questions or add in some more questions depending on one’s own situation. Not everyone is alike or is in exactly the same situation.


  • Ian Richardson on said:

    Best list of questions I have found, and I am going to make sure I address each one of them and have the answers ready for my clients.

    Some I might even throw at them even if they don’t ask.

    Thanks a million Lisa


  • Justin Parks on said:

    “All great questions, but will they know what the correct answers are?”

    Anna is on the money with that point.

    The list is excellent If your a social media company hiring someone to work as a social media expert but most businesses and clients would struggle with understanding what hosting is never mind this check list and indeed I think Curtis raises good points which more or less back this up:

    “My clients like to ask these questions, but they are yet to put much value on good answers – because good answers cost a lot of money.

    So for now they accept my simple answers with my full intention to minimize my effort with regards to social media. They are happy with someone talking the talk, without doing much – as long as they don’t have to pay for it. ”

    Most businesses wont have an marketing expert working for them who will understand what the “correct” answer is and yes, even then, most folks could blag their way to the correct answer and say just what you want to hear and consequently, any business asking these questions would have the budget to back them up, which “normal” businesses” do not.

    The list I’m used to goes something like:

    1. Whats this social media thing?
    2. Is it expensive / How much is it?
    3. I don’t have time to do stuff, so will it take a lot of time?
    4. Can I make money from it?
    5. Is it expensive?

    Such is life I guess.


  • Eddy Badrina on said:

    Great set of questions! I think the last one should actually be first: “How will the strategy they outline complement your larger objectives?” Most agencies rarely link their strategy (if there is any) back to the broader business and marketing objectives. You could probably expand that question even further to figure out whether the social media agency is merely tactical, or whether they dig a little deeper to address your business objectives.


  • Eddy Badrina on said:

    By the way, that’s a brilliant “thanks for commenting” landing page. Love that you those SM and RSS links to further the interaction and dialogue.


  • Brett Borders on said:

    This is a very good list with some meaty questions. The best post on the topic I’ve seen.


  • James Brickle on said:

    Awesome article and I will share this liberally. We have learned to specialize a bit and not claim to be the be all and end all. But concentrating on segments and being able to provide provable results which are still amazing ourselves is the key.
    “Manage expectations”.


  • Derek on said:

    Great food for thought, but I’d have to say ditto to Anna and Justin, in that most small businesses won’t know how to evaluate the answers. And Justin’s bit about the questions he’s used to answering is totally in line with what I’ve experienced.

    Having said that, I’ve put this list in my reference file to work on building up my answers to these.

    Thanks!


  • Randy Barnes on said:

    52 questions and it’s not even ‘the full list’. Oh my, I can’t deal with this again today.
    ( Anyway, I gotta go get my car inspected since my lights been fixed for 3 days now.)


  • Heinrich on said:

    Thank you for a very informative post. Making use of social media has become a must for most companies. Social media opens up new ways of interacting with your users and consumers and it is also a great brand building tool. The key is to ensure that you manage it professionally and effectively. If you decide to outsource your social media marketing, please make sure that the company that you appoint is experienced and has a good record.


  • Fitim on said:

    Extremely useful stuff here… A great introduction to the world of social media metrics. Will strongly recommend to others.


  • Craig Oda on said:

    These are great questions. Well done. I’d be curious to see the responses from Outspoken Media.

    The questions about share of voice and sentiment are especially interesting since the answers are going to be all over the map. I work with a lot of big brands on social media campaigns and I’ve never seen an effective, standardized way to measure sentiment and share of positive voice versus competitors. Everyone is measuring things with blunt tools and delivering results of questionable accuracy. I’m not being condescending since I fall into this category of people that wants to improve the accuracy of measurement, but don’t know how.


  • Jeff Posey on said:

    I respectfully disagree. This sounds like a list generated by committee to write an RFP for social media branding by a large company. I’ve worked on both the large corporate and the agency sides of those. They generally miss the point entirely.

    I recommend three questions:

    1. Will I make more sales?
    2. How much does it cost?
    3. When can we start?

    All else is MBA-overthink.


    • ReaderX on said:

      Indeed. At first, I was sure the tweets were referring to a parody article of the “97 Questions For Your SM Guru” type.

      Alas, I’m supposed to take this list of questions seriously, including the oh-so-obvious leading questions such as “Will you merely monitor comments and not bother to trying getting more engagement or do you have some kind of specific plan for getting 8 trillion rabid fans commenting each hour for which you can tell me all the details of right now before I pay you a nickel?” and “Will you give us guidelines on how to type so we don’t look like dumbasses?”.

      A number of questions are not for the client to ask the agency, but for the agency to ask the client.

      This list, with some modifications, could be useful to a very well-budgeted multinational corporation. Regrettably, the list is mostly likely to end up abused by the other 99.9% of folks who won’t know what the answers mean and can’t possibly fund such an excrutiatingly detailed campaign.


  • Chris on said:

    This is a guide to running-off every qualified SM company, right? Because nobody businesslike — the very people who might help you — is going to jump through all these hoops to satisfy some know-nothing middle manager.


  • David on said:

    Man this list was long. I would only answer these questions for a six figure + social media marketing budget. If I had to sit there and answer these questions for a client that can only spend a few thousand a month I would go broke.


  • Steve Manning on said:

    If I were a business owner and a potential client hit me with a survey of this size and complexity, I’d see it as a huge warning sign that this client is going to be a lot more trouble than they’re worth, and I’d wish them all the best and I’d go find business elsewhere.


  • Gordy on said:

    These questions are the real questions that, we should be asking ourselves before we hire a social media company. And I agree to the author fully. Well, I am a person who loves search engine marketing, and earlier I used to do it on my own. Now I am thinking of hiring a social media company and I think I should bookmark your post for reading this post in the future.


  • Gazania on said:

    A client that asks all of those questions shouldn’t be hiring a Social Media Company, they should become a Social Media Consultant….haha…Those are great questions for a Social Media Consultant to ask themselves in preparation to take on any question from a potential client.


  • Tim Cramer on said:

    Great questions. But, here’s one for you. What are the correct answers? If, as a client, you have no knowledge of what the correct answers should be, then any answer may sound appropriate.

    For example, Reputation Management. What is the correct answer – and is there really a concrete answer. There could be 20 different ways of effectively addressing this issue – depending, of course, on the clients needs and the internal successes of the the firm itself.

    Is Reputation Management a web concern only. Or, is there a physical component/presence in the management process.

    If you’re going to post questions that the uneducated middle manager should ask – you should at least empower him with the answers to these questions and an overview as to why the question should be asked in the first place and how these services will effect the overall budget.

    Just my two cents.


  • Sam Freedom on said:

    I know this was a year ago but anyways… I’m glad some people caught on in the few previous posts, that list is absolutely useless. MBA Overthink is exactly right. I actually pity people who get caught up in this because even if it WAS useful to, perhaps, a scant 1% of the field, it’s just the kind of thing one would come up with in order to validate themselves and/or justify their position.

    Once, I told a friend, “But there are people who know so much more than I.”

    To which he replied, “Maybe, but you’re comparing yourself in the wrong direction. There’s a lot of people who know less.”

    And that’s the marketing side of things, folks, you don’t need to be prepared to ace a quiz that would even frighten a MENSA. You just need to find a company that knows a boatload less than you and MAKE THEIR EXPERIENCE MORE ENJOYABLE.

    I walked into a Congressional campaign in its last 10 weeks and, despite having to suffer the usual internal discord, I still managed to eke out a $10k internet fundraiser using mainly fb, twitter, 4square and youtube and I wasn’t terribly elaborate. I just understood timing and sequence in the context in which I was asked to perform.

    Quite awesome, indeed… has landed me other gigs.

    best wishes,
    Sam


  • Justin Hyne on said:

    Useful stuff here Lisa as it’s always a tricky problem not knowing what you don’t know! Asking the right questions in all areas of life is so important and so good stuff on putting this together. I would add to it but it’s already pretty definitive as is. Best, J


  • Paul Oliver on said:

    Lisa, great list of questions. I actually think this one is the most important:

    How can integrate our online community with our offline community and into our traditional marketing efforts?

    Social media marketing feels so “bolted on” right now. Like it’s an afterthought. I have yet to see a company do it right. But if you ask me what is right, I couldn’t tell you what it would look like.

    Marketing Managers: I don’t want to follow your brand on twitter just so you can blast ads at me. I follow people on twitter to either make me laugh or build a relationship.


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